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Text in ContextEssays by Members of the Society for Old Testament
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A. D. H. Mayes

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198263913

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2004

DOI: 10.1093/0198263910.001.0001

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Textual Criticism: The Ancient Versions

Textual Criticism: The Ancient Versions

(p.141) 6 Textual Criticism: The Ancient Versions
Text in Context

S. Talmon

Oxford University Press

This is the first of five chapters on the text of the Old Testament. It focuses on textual criticism of the ancient versions of the Old Testament, pointing out that no other ancient or modern text seems to be witnessed by so many diverse sources in a variety of languages, and has a transmission history so difficult to elucidate as the text of the Hebrew Bible. The essay offers a necessarily restricted survey of the early transmission history of the biblical text in manuscript form up to the crystallization of an incipient unified Hebrew text and the appearance of translations of the Hebrew original into other Semitic and non‐Semitic languages between c.200 bce and 300 ce; invariably, later secondary translations are not considered. Attention focuses on the early stages of the written transmission of the consonantal text with emphasis on a concise review of the information on its history, which can be obtained from two quite dissimilar groups of manuscript remains in respect to chronology and socio‐religious provenance: (a) the assemblage of biblical scrolls and scroll fragments (the Dead Sea Scrolls) brought to light since 1947 that the dissident ‘Community of the Renewed Covenant’ had deposited in caves near a site known by the modern Arabic name of Qumran; and (b) fragments found since the 1950s at other sites in the Judaean Desert—Masada, Wadi Murabba’at, Naḥal Ṣe‚elim (Wadi Seiyāl) , and Naḥal Ḥever, which represent the textual tradition of normative Judaism.

Keywords:   ancient manuscripts, biblical text, Dead Sea Scrolls, Hebrew Bible, Hebrew text, Judaean Desert manuscripts, manuscript remains, Masada, Naḥal Ḥever, Naḥal Ṣe‚elim, non‐Semitic languages, Old Testament, Qumran, Semitic languages, textual criticism, translations, transmission history, Wadi Murabba’at, Wadi Seiyāl, written transmission

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